Merry Christmas to our friends and family near and far. I love this time of year when I get to hear from so many of you and get updated pictures on your growing families and all your adventures. It has been over 20 years that we have been sending out the traditional Christmas card/photo and letter. I am still old school and like to send out a letter update, but last year was the first time that we didn’t send out a card…because… well a big THING changed our lives….forever. So here is my attempt to encapsulate 2013-14 into a readable, enjoyable excerpt of the Loys’ lives. Our theme for 2013-14 was Priorities.
As most of you know-- in March 2013, I was diagnosed with colon cancer which we quickly found out had spread to my liver. Within two weeks, I was faced with the diagnosis of stage four metastasized cancer. This led to four months of chemotherapy, two surgeries, and long, painful recoveries. Six months after the second surgery, we found out the cancer had spread to my lung, so in September of 2014 I had another surgery and am now on what they call “safety” chemo—weekly chemotherapy sessions to blast out the cancer cells that could still be in my bloodstream. Today I am truly a walking miracle—four tumors in three organs of my body-- completely eradicated. I am indebted to my oncology and surgery teams and to be able to live near one of the best cancer centers in the world. But all the glory goes to God who is the ultimate Healer. He has carried our whole family through this trial and we are forever changed because of it. The support we received from family and friends has been indescribable. Priorities shifted and became purposeful—every day. Because of this, my life motto for 2014 has been #blessedbeyondbelief (Yes, that is a hashtag; I’m so “hipster”).
Besides Jesus, who is our Rock, Greg has been the rock in our family as we all battled this disease. He managed to keep his work schedule, get the boys to sports and school, and take care of so much of the household. As we entered 2014, we were hopeful for a better year, but in May Greg’s dad Ron died and in July we found out my cancer was back. Greg stood strong, showing our boys how to process grief and celebrate life as he spoke at his dad’s memorial. While in Arizona for the service we were able to spend fun time with all Greg’s cousins. Greg has always been an incredible husband and father, but these past two years haven’t been easy and he has shown us his unwavering faith for God’s provision through it all.
The boys have been blessed with a solid faith community that surrounds them. Their youth leaders, friends, teachers, and coaches supported them as they faced the difficulties of a mom with cancer. Their own personal faith, our family communication, and prayer got us through this. I am amazed at each of them with their own unique gifts and personalities. I am humbled and proud of how they have been resilient through this trial and how laughter and many “mom is a dork on chemo” jokes got us through the past two years.
Noah’s priorities are friends, school and soccer. He got his driver’s license which has made everyone’s schedule easier. He had a great job this summer coaching little kids in a variety of sports including camps like extreme dodgeball and laser tag. When he wasn’t working, he was hanging out with friends at the beach. He also made the tough decision to cut back his sports’ schedule to focus on academics and one sport—so after five years of playing lacrosse, he hung up his stick and is focusing solely on soccer—continuing with his competitive and high school team. He is in the midst of his junior year as we begin to explore college options and all that goes along with that.
Micah’s priority is school. He has a master plan for his life which includes becoming a veterinarian, so he is wasting no time in preparing for this goal. As driven as he is with academics, he is still such a warm, easy going, fun kid to be around. As he finishes his last year of middle school, he is playing lacrosse and basketball and promises to pursue his singing “once his voice stops changing” (his words, not mine).
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made a pledge to live each day with purpose and joy. So we took some opportunities last year to travel to new places—I wasn’t going to let surgeries, scars, fatigue, or chemo get in our way. Last Christmas we went on a cruise out of New Orleans with our dear family friends, the Longs. We travelled to Honduras, Belize and Cozumel and snorkeled, hiked, and explored the beauty of those areas. Greg and I went to Charleston over spring break and met my dear college friends—Alex, Jon and Lisa. We wined, dined, and walked our way through that beautiful city. In May we went on a quick trip to Cancun to celebrate our friend Bill’s 50th—another super relaxing trip to take in all of God’s amazing creation. This summer my college friends had our 30 year reunion at our home and we all made it—with spouses and kids. In November we headed to Texas for my friend Kathy’s daughter’s beautiful wedding. I stood at Kathy’s side as her maid of honor many years ago, and she stood beside me in my wedding, so it was a joy to help plan and celebrate the “next gen” wedding. Friendships are priority, and we are blessed to have such deep, faithful friendships that time and distance only make stronger.
Of course, our whole family’s first priority is our faith in Christ. I made a difficult decision to resign from my position as Youth Director—after 28 years of working in education and ministry with youth. In order to focus on my family and my healing, we felt this was where God was leading us. We will always be blessed with the incredible family and friends we gained from that time in our lives. God had new plans for us and our whole family is now involved in a new church plant called Redemption. The leaders of this church are many of our former Young Life kids—“30 somethings” now with their own small kids (we are Lola and Grandpa to many little ones)—and we couldn’t be more proud and humbled to serve and worship with this amazing leadership team that God has called together. God has brought us full circle and we know that this is where He wants us.
I know it is cliché, but please don’t wait for a life changing event like cancer or a death in your family to align your priorities to what is important. Get your priorities and your purpose in order and live your life accordingly. Don’t wait. If you sense God leading you or calling you to something that is scary, risky, or uncomfortable, pray and listen. Be obedient. Believe. Follow. Go.